Sir Vivian Richards: The Annihilator
The first image which pops up in my mind when the name 'Vivian Richards' comes up in a conversation is that of a tall, macho man, chewing gum as he crushes his opponent. A towering personality, he always brings a smile to my face when I see him on TV, YouTube or a newspaper and the reason is that I derive a lot of courage from this great man.
I instantly took a liking to him when I first watched him playing against India in 1983/84-series. Though the star of the series was Gavaskar, Richards performed decently. After that series, I never missed an opportunity to see him bat — both in Tests and ODIs. Born an Antiguan, he possessed all qualities of being a typical Caribbean — cheerful, friendly and menacing at work. The way in which Viv walked into the cricket ground with swagger, holding his bat like a mace was a sight to behold. The one thing which set him apart from other batsmen was his ability to dominate the best bowling attack from the start. The only modern-day cricketer who evokes such an emotion is Sehwag.
His duel with Lillee, Thompson, and Pascoe are folklore in the world of cricket. On YouTube, one can see those cricketing battles and admire the courage and conviction in the way Richards attacked these bowling legends. Like Sunny, he never wore a helmet while facing the intimidating bowlers of his time namely Imran, Botham, Hadlee, Kapil, Willis and of course the ones mentioned above. Although he was basically a batsman who loved playing at onside, his cover drives and square cuts were just brilliant. He loved hooking and pulling the bowlers who bowled short at him. He averaged 47 in one day at a strike rate of 90. This shows the attacking power of Richards during the time when cricket was not as fast and competitive as it is today.
He was called the Black Bradman, not because of his capacity to accumulate runs but for his inhuman ability to see a ball almost before it had been bowled. His reflexes were so fast that the fastest of bowlers were frightened of him. He abused them, terrifying some and destroying the confidence of others, shortening their careers by his brutal assaults on their bowling. In the year 2000, Richards was named one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, coming fifth behind Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne in the poll of 100 international cricket experts appointed by Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
He has played many innings which are still etched in our memories. One such inning is his 189* from just 170-balls against England in 1984. Put into bat, West Indies lost their openers early. Richards started playing his shots, hitting Botham, Willis, Foster, and Pringle to all parts of the Old Trafford ground. His batting partner kept changing at the other end, but that did not stop him. Overall he scored 21-boundaries and 5-sixes. The batsman’s last 58-deliveries produced an incredible 86-runs, with nine boundary fours and five-maximums in what is still thought of as being the greatest limited-overs innings ever.
Right from Tendulkar to Lara, Ponting to Sehwag, all of them have idolized Richards and narrate beautiful stories on how Richard's batting style affected them and contributed greatly in shaping their careers. Even his contemporaries — Imran, Sunny, Tony Greig, Botham, Hadlee, Kapil and other greats consider him as the most intimidating and destructive batsman of all time. Richards saved his best for England, against whom he scored 2869-runs at an average of over 62 with eight centuries.
Apart from being a batsman, he was a useful spin bowler and a fine fielder. He took 150-wickets and 222-catches in his international career while scoring 14500 odd runs at swift pace. A lot of players have scored more runs than him, but the impact he made in the game of cricket has been everlasting. No statistical record can show his brilliance on the cricket field. Players like Richards make the game of cricket, memorable and a spectator sport.